by Seminarian Jeff Dock
This article takes a look at the words and message of the great Lutheran Hymn, "A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth," LSB #438.
Paul Gerhardt, a 17th century German hymnist, wrote 'A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth'. It's been a welcome addition to Lutheran hymnals ever since.
Stanza 1 tells us that there is a Lamb of God who bears the sins of mankind.
“A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth,The guilts of sinners bearing.
And, laden with the the sins of earth, None else the burden sharing.”
In the Old Testament, God the Father had appointed that an innocent lamb be the animal marked as the sin bearer. Only an animal such as this was pure enough to have sin placed upon it. These lambs all point to Christ who bears the sin of the world. It doesn’t seem fair. Cute cuddly lambs get sacrificed. The innocent Son of God has the sins of the world placed upon Him. He (without complaint) is beaten, wounded, mocked, and finally crucified. What made such a sacrifice necessary?
Stanza 2 of this hymn answers that question. It was the Father’s will for our salvation It was necessary for us that Jesus do His Father's will by going to the cross because that alone was the cure for sin. That is how sinful man is saved.
“Go Forth my Son” the Father said “And free my children from their dread of guilt and condemnation.
The wrath and stripes are hard to bear, but by your passion they will share the fruit of your salvation.”
Sin is not something God could just overlook, forget about, or ignore. You don’t just sweep this under the rug. It doesn’t work that way. Heaven is perfect. Sin is the opposite of perfection. We’re sinners and therefore we’re not perfect. We wouldn’t fit. Picture Heaven as a field of pure light, of pure beauty, of pure holiness. A sinner would be a smudge on the horizon, a dark blot, something ugly. Something you couldn’t look away from. Something bad in a place of good. Something imperfect in a place of perfection.
But God wants you in Heaven. He created you to spend eternity with Him. Even though sin was keeping us out of Heaven, God wouldn’t stand for that. Sin isn’t something He could just ignore. It had to go somewhere. It was on us, and so God placed it upon His Son. Only the perfectly innocent Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, was able to bear all that sin. Jesus took our sin and gave us His righteousness. We’re able to enter Heaven because our sin is removed. It was borne by Christ. He suffered it, shed His blood for it, and died for it. We are forgiven.
Stanza 3 of our hymn starts with Jesus speaking
“Yes Father, yes most willingly I’ll bear what you command me.
My will conforms to your decree, I’ll do what you have asked me.”
None of us could have borne the world’s sin the way Christ did. We can’t even handle our own sin, much less the sin of the entire world. But Jesus does it willingly. He does it because He trusts in the Father’s good and holy will. He knows that the Father's gracious will is to give mankind forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.
Stanza 3 reminds us of the price that needed to be paid for sin.
“The Father offers up His Son, desiring our salvation. O love, how strong you are to save!
You lay the One into the grave who built the earth’s foundation.”
We can't fully understand how destructive sin is because we're so mired in it. It never looks as bad to us as it actually is. We can see just how serious sin is by looking at the price that was required to fix it, by looking at Jesus upon the cross. We see how terrible sin is when we realize that the Creator of the world had to die in order to fix it.
Part of the Christian life is coming to a deeper awareness of how bad our sins really are. We do this not so we can sit around feeling bad about ourselves, but instead so that we can rejoice in Christ. Coming to grips with the fact that we’re (to quote our liturgy) “poor miserable sinners” is good, for Jesus said “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Seeing ourselves as “poor miserable sinners” isn’t as bad as it first sounds. For Christ came into this world to save sinners.
The hymn ends with the following words which stand as our hope always
“And there, in garments richly wrought, as Your own bride shall we be brought to stand in joy beside thee.”
Jeff Dock is a 2nd year student at Concordia Theological Seminary studying to be a Lutheran pastor. While not occupied by video games and his baby daughter, he occasionally studies.
Created: April 5th, 2009